Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Tougher Than Iron

Many people hearing about a quest to complete an Ironman race conclude it will be the toughest challenge the triathlete will face in life. And certainly the prospect of completing the entire 140.6 mile race in the alloted 17 hours is a significant undertaking. Individually, none of the disciplines gives me pause. Completing a marathon after a 2.4 mile swim and 112 mile bike, that's another story.

Even so, finishing in Louisville will rank no higher than second on my list of life challenges. That's because I'm a parent. And the stakes are so much higher in parenting than in any triathlon. That's because the cost of failure in a race is minimal. Sure, there's the long hours of training. Yes, the entry fee is high. And, of course, my ego might take a hit if I miss a cutoff.

But that's it. I train, anyway, so that's no real cost. Race fees are at risk as soon as they are paid. And my ego is neither so elevated nor so sensitive that a DNF will be that big an issue.

Parenting, though, that has real impact. And there aren't clean little 24-week training plans for parenting. It's a lifelong workout. And the stakes, well, they're astronomical. And there's no telling when a parent will be asked to pay the piper, though it is safe to assume it will be pretty much every day.

The past few days have been a struggle with our son. His late night (well, really early morning) antics have led to a very grumpy boy during the daytime. Emerging independence is pitted against the desire to be the baby. Opposition to potty training has run headlong into a dislike of diapers. "I can do it myself" turns into "You do it for me." And a growing sense of self sometimes voices itself inappropriately.

This is where the balancing act of the triathlon lifestyle comes into play. And the discipline to continue training when things go badly at night. There will always be those times when it is just easier to turn off the alarm. Then again, will the extra hour sleep REALLY provide a benefit?

Last night, I found that the desire to get more sleep once again outweighed by the need to make sure my son was alright after calming down. And I left the alarm alone. Because an extra hour of sleep helps less than another 2500 yards in the pool.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007


Some would say that attempting to complete an Ironman is madness.

I say it is one step beyond.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Swimming and Math

Okay, it's a fairly well known fact that swimming is my limiter. It's also rumored that math, which is one of my strengths, mixes poorly with swimming. I've been known to forget to breathe when I'm trying to figure out laps, lengths, sets, and other such nonsense. What usually happens is the math interferes with counting arm revolutions, and I never get to four (and breathe). I'm fairly certain I've done entire lengths of the pool without a single breath as I attempt to figure out how many lengths I have likely completed, and whether I'm on the second lap of my second 400 or the first lap of the fourth.

Lifeguards generally start following me around with poles about that point. They know what's coming. Somewhere around the second length, math starts getting difficult as oxygen deprivation sets in.

So, this morning, my scheduled swim reads like something needed to put man on the moon. WU 400, 6x50 with each 50 faster, 4x 400 on 20/15/10/5 rest, 200 ez swim, 6x75 with last 25 sprint on odd, last 50 sprint on even, 200 CD. Things were going along, well, swimmingly until my printout vanished during one of the 400 intervals.

Of course, there was a lot of math going on, mostly about which lap of which interval I was on. It's quite possible the previously mentioned lack of oxygen became a factor and I ate the printout somewhere along the line. Or perhaps someone forgot their workout and was masochistic enough to try mine.

So, I started to go off memory. Only, lack of oxygen does odd things to the memory. Now, I'm trying to do math, count laps, AND remember exactly how much of what I'm supposed to be doing. I muddled through the workout, and left VERY concerned. This was a 3000 yard workout, and I have a 3200 yard session scheduled tomorrow.

The outlook for my actually making it to work on time after a 3200 yard swim was bleak until I got the lap information off my watch. First, I added an extra 50 yards at the end of the swim (don't ask, because I don't know). In addition, the 6x75 became 8x75, likely because I did all that math and knew that 6x75 is 450, and I was definitely swimming 3000. I didn't have any other odd 50's in there, so knew 450 was bad. So, my 3000 yard swim came out to a nice round 3275 yards. The silver lining is that tomorrow's 3200 yard swim will be easier than today's.

Note to self: Write down which lap corresponds to which set in the workout. Reading is much easier than math.

Thursday, January 25, 2007


Well, it finally hit. B-Boy was sick a while back, and he still sounds like he's coughing up a lung, sometimes. Monster Girl succumbed fairly quickly and has been the worse for it for about a week and a half, now. She bears the brunt because she can't blow her nose. That means she faces the suction bulb. I know a lady who used one on herself just to see what the kids experience. She said it sucked, literally and figuratively.

I resisted the bug for quite some time, getting my training sessions in and doing well. This morning, before the alarm ever went off, I knew an hour run was unlikely. So, I opted to get a bit more sleep and see if I can get the run (or at least an hour on the bike trainer) completed, tonight.

The worst part is that events at work make a sick day out of the question. I believe that if I'm sick enough to miss a training session I'm sick enough to miss work. Since I'm at work, I have to get the training in, somehow.

And once I'm all better and reenergized, I'll post something more interesting. Until then, it's the sick baby blues.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Whooda Thunk?

Things I never thought I'd say or do in the pool:

1. Just 2000 yards, today

2. I'm just swimming too fast

3. Find myself swimming SO slowly I focused on form issues, only to find the minor changes were making me go faster (which was already a problem, see 2)

4. Talking with other swimmers because 20 seconds rest interval is just TOO long

And now for something completely different...

B-Boy on the slide

B-Boy and Grandpa B

My babies at the beach

Monday, January 22, 2007

My Strength is My Weakness

I have long thought that swimming was my weakest discipline in triathlon. Biking has long been a hobby of mine, and even after years away from the sport it was easy to hop back in the saddle and hammer out 40-50 miles. While far from an Armstrong or a Basso, I do alright on long rides and know many of the areas in need of improvement.

Running is much the same. I won't be winning any marathons, and I have lots of room for improvement. Even so, I have thousands of miles behind me and have gained a lot of knowledge over the past several years of marathoning. And I can run 15-20 miles on the spur of the moment and suffer few ill effects the following day.

Anyone with minimal exposure to this site knows that swimming is an entirely different story. Even the smallest gain takes a lot of effort. I know just enough to realize how much improvement is needed. I have long accepted that swimming is the weakest link in my iron chain.

Until this past week. One session in the weight room proved that my strength is my weakness. Coach Mike gave me a fairly straightforward strength session including his beginner (you know, the wee baby stuff) core workout. The freeweight portions were easy enough. Four years of football provided sufficient background to accomplish that. The core workout, that was another story.

His plan was for me to complete two sets of his Core Set I. I completed only one. Well, one if we are fairly liberal with the term "complete." It was a killer. Mind you, he also has Core II through Core VI. Like I said, this was like the kindergarten workout, like playing kickball.

I completed that one set, and knew I was wiped out. The next morning, I had proof when I went to get out of bed. My stomach revolted, filed a grievance with the union, and left the building for a smoke break. Today, four days since that workout, and my stomach is still feeling the effects of that workout.

That leads me to the conclusion that my strength is, in fact, my weakness. So, sore tummy or not, I'll be putting a solid emphasis on the workouts provided by Mike. And those core workouts, they're my new nemesis. And like any good nemesis, they must be thrown down. They must be shown that I'm tougher than they. It's likely to hurt. But it's also sure to help.

So, if you can't find me in the pool, check out the weight room. I just might be hanging out with my new friend, the Fitball.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Disco Death and the Wrong Y

Okay, I'm on vacation and attended a wedding, yesterday. After the wedding and reception, we found out that many from the party were going to hit a local dance club. As it is a club I frequented quite a bit in my "younger" years, I made an exception to my 9 p.m. bedtime and headed to the club at 11 p.m.

When we arrived, it was easy to see how 10 years can change a joint. My memories of the club included bands like The Ramones, Agent Orange, and various ska bands. What we walked into was straight out of the hip-hop manual. Well that, and something bordering on a gentleman's club (the scantily clad women dancing in the "don't touch me" box.

While I listen to a wide variety of music, including various hip-hop styles, it is far from the music I prefer when dancing. Then again, perhaps I'm just getting old.

In training news, I have commenced the plan provided by Coach Mike Ricci at D3 Multisport. Having a formalized plan is great. Starting it at a "foreign" YMCA, not so much.

As the entire Pol family is in Virginia, I had to find a local Y for my swims. I hit the nearest facility for that first swim, and found what can only be described as a very short pool. It can only be described that way because in two days and six staff members, nobody has been able to tell me the exact length. My guess is 20 yards. Making 71 turns for a mile is bad enough. Making 87 is just that much worse.

Add to that the lack of towel service (which I didn't know the first day = I drove home fairly wet), and I wasn't impressed with everything. I am, however, the visitor, so I adapted. I took a towel and wrote down the lengths needed for each portion of today's session, and all went much better.

So, a training plan has been born, and a favorite disco has passed on to a new life. What was it Elton John sang for The Lion King...

Oh yeah, The Circle of Life.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Benefits of Training

George Schweitzer has an entire series of posts titled Reasons to be Athletic. Most are lighthearted observations about the benefits of training, and all provide insight into some of the reasons people do train. Next to his race reports, these are some of his best posts. By the way, if you're looking for information about races or trying to benefit from what others have done, definitely read George's race reports. They are a wealth of knowledge and tips.

Last night, I had my own "benefits of training" moment. And it all centers on owning a car with over 100,000 miles. That's because there's this thing called 90,000 mile maintenance. It's a big one. Between the maintenance and a few recall issues, the dealer had my vehicle for two days. And when I got it back, all was well. Okay, all was well until outside temperatures became more winter-like. One brisk morning, as I headed to the pool and then work, it became very apparent that things were less than perfect in the heat category. As in "wow, it's taking a long time to warm the car up" turning into, "ummm, that's awfully cold air my vents are blowing" type imperfect.

Fortunately, my dad was available to get me from the dealer to the Boys' and Girls' Brigade where I lead a group of 8th graders. That, however, left me to my own devices for getting back to the car. When the program ended at nine, I headed out the door. My options were to have my wife pick me up (with the requisite bundling up of children), or put all this training to good use AND get in an impromptu run workout.

So, I headed out the door and started running. I'm sure many people questioned my sanity. It was cold. It was late. And I was running. I, however, very honestly viewed it as a short jog to get my car. And it was short. Probably 1.5 miles. I did it in 10 minutes and never broke a sweat. Remember, it's COLD. Five years ago, the Navy could barely get me to jog 1. 5 miles as part of the mandatory physical readiness test. Today, it isn't even a warmup.

Add it to the list of reasons to be athletic.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Daddy DoIt!

Prior to the birth of my son in 2003, I had changed exactly one diaper. That was during a visit by my sister with her daughter. That was only because of a leaky diaper emergency. As my sister was about to leave my house to catch a flight home, she picked up her napping daughter only to find out the diaper was leaking (mostly onto my sister's skirt). She handed the baby to me and ran from the room to wash off her skirt.

She left me, as it were, holding the bag. Only the bag was my niece. And no amount of holding was going to keep that diaper from leaking, now onto my couch and carpeting. That's where fireplace mats come in handy.

Oh, I changed the diaper. It even stayed on when I picked her back up. Only minor corrections were required when my sister returned. The miracle of disposable diapers. Thank goodness no clothing changes were required.

The limits of my knowledge of all things baby came to light when I made my first attempt to change my son in the hospital. As he was born by C-Section, Mrs. Pol was limited in her ability to help me at that exact moment. No worries, Super Dad can handle anything. Well, perhaps most anything. Okay, maybe exactly NOTHING that needed handling at that specific moment. That's okay. That's what nurses are for. They are experts at taking pictures of a new dad trying to change a baby for the first time. And then stepping in to provide some much needed guidance.

Given the ineptitude of that first attempt at changing our baby, it is amazing how both of my children now react. When we arrive anywhere in our car, cries of "Daddy do it" can be heard emanating from the back seat. That is my son requesting (okay, demanding) that only daddy can let him out of his car seat. When it is time for bed, the call of "Daddy do it" reaches my ears, letting me know that mom isn't allowed to put B-Boy down for the evening.

And in the middle of the night, when bad dreams or a wet diaper have awoken him, the plaintive wail of "Daddy" lets me know that I am needed.

Of course, when daddy is nowhere to be found, mommy is the only acceptable substitute and she must handle any and all needs. And if the kids can be convinced that daddy is otherwise tied up, sick, dead, or missing, she can take care of them, as well.

This morning, as I headed from the nursery (where I answered a "Daddy do it") to take a shower, I was intercepted by Monster Girl. She has started to adopt some of B-Boy's more endearing qualities. Namely, she's a daddy's girl. The melt down that resulted from her being unable to join me in the shower was heart rending.

It's good to know my children love me. I know that in time they will become more distant and I will yearn for "the good old days." And "Daddy do it" is something they will always seek. But sometimes, just sometimes, I await the time I hear "Mommy do it."

Friday, January 05, 2007

Can I Jump in the Mix

A few of you out there are familiar with my previous secret identity, Running Pol. Prior to the challenge to attempt a triathlon, Running Pol lived a double life engaging both marathon training and political issues. I had readers from both walks of life, and a few who share my passion for both. As triathlons entered the mix, I decided to leave politics and debate out of the picture. Well, mostly.

Sometimes, however, a situation requires attention. Nancy Toby posted an entry that has generated quite a bit of feedback. Oddly enough, it also generated some publicity. The author of the article to which she refers, Michael Boyle, caught wind of her post and a public relations campaign ensued. I'm unsure if everyone who posted a comment received e-mails, but the support team at Boyles' forum has sent me a couple, primarily aimed at defending the lack of communications channels with Mr. Boyle.

Mr. Boyle, showing great respect for Nancy's arguments, felt justified in posting a response on his column. Unfortunately, he didn't have enough respect to provide a link to Nancy's site. He then proceeds to throw logic flaw after logic flaw out in an attempt to defend his rather tenuous position.

Mr. Boyle provides this explanation for why Nancy responded negatively to his original post, "Oftentimes people read what they want to read. They interpret it through a personal lens. Nancy took my article as an attack on her and those like her." He assumes that a great deal of interpretation was done while reading his column. If there is, he must also note that every comment I've seen came to the same conclusion. Either we are all poor at understanding what we read, or his column conveyed the wrong message. The message I received, though take with a grain of salt, is that he feels women are constructed poorly for participation in running events. While I will agree that men and women are constructed differently, I've had my butt kicked in marathons by too many women, many of whom he would encourage to not even run.

Want a nice red-herring argument? Here's one from Mr. Boyle. "The reality is that whether you are male or female, endurance-athlete training can lead to overuse injury. My point is that the female body type puts them at greater risk. Was my article intended to be a chauvinist rant aimed at demeaning women? No, exactly the opposite. It was meant as a word to the wise."

Okay, first, anyone who approaches endurance training without a healthy respect for the risks inherent with any exercise may be putting themselves in jeopardy. His "word to the wise," however, isn't that women (and men) should exercise caution in training. He states that most women shouldn't run. His comment, not mine.

Did you like that logic flaw? Why not go for two. Another quote from Mr. Boyle. "Here is another interesting thought for which I have only anecdotal support. The running and aerobics boom of the late seventies corresponded directly with a huge boom in the practice of physical therapy. More exercise led to more injuries in our more-is-better world. People weren't happy with a run. It had to be a Marathon."

This doesn't even qualify as anecdotal. Without statistical analysis, we can't even be sure that his comments are correlated. He wants to claim that the physical therapy boom of the 70s is a result of the running and aerobics boom. While that might have a causal relation to poor mechanics, I would contend a significant amount of research would be needed to prove that. First, it is likely that both men and women were seeking therapy, pulling support from his "women shouldn't run" theory. Second, there are a great many other variables that might be the cause of the physical therapy boom. Factors such as marketing and new diagnostic techniques likely helped fuel the surge.

What is most interesting to me is that Mr. Boyle continues to hide behind his support crew. The e-mail responses I received from my comment indicated he is too busy to personally handle all direct e-mail. With all the red herring floating around his column, I shouldn't be surprised to see them in e-mails. First, you can still have an assistant sort through personal mail. Second, he is authoring in a public forum. If he is unable or unwilling to deal with feedback, both positive and negative, perhaps he should stick to coaching those who find his arguments valid. He's welcome to his opinion. He just shouldn't expect others to suppress their's.

Party of Three

IM The Ville promises to be an exciting event. From the obvious "it's an Ironman" to the mundane "it's a vacation," it promises to be an awesome party. Today, the Iron Pol party grew by one. I found the time to get over to the blog of another mid-westerner who will be participating in the inaugural race.

Her name is Iron Snoopy. And her profile picture is awesome. Really, go by and check it out. And when you do, leave her some comment love, because she's racing Louisville and I consider her my newest teammate. And she's in my age group, running her first Ironman, so we have a few things in common.

More importantly, she knows about Appleton Rum. And anyone familiar with that is okay in my book. I've been known to climb to the top of palm trees just to win a bottle of Appleton rum. Okay, it might have been ANY rum at the time, but it wound up being Appleton rum.

*Side note- climbing a palm tree is far easier than getting down from a palm tree. Consider that a public service announcement from your friends at Iron Pol.

So, Iron Snoopy has been linked, and we'll be tracking her progress and hoping to meet up as race day approaches. And judging from her site, she'll do awesome.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Condensed Version

Training for endurance events is often affected by the events in life. Kids get sick, spouses have meetings, and other demands place a strain on the hours available for training. Injury or illness can wreak havoc on plans. But who knew that a former home-owner could create so many difficulties?

It goes something like this...

Mrs. Pol called me at work a short while back to notify me that the house was a brisk 58F. While we like to conserve energy (okay, money), that's a bit cool for our taste, particularly with the children in the house. So, I headed home from work to look into it. While I wasn't able to resolve the issue immediately, I did get the furnace working without a visit from the HVAC mafia. Sometimes, it's good to work with dozens of engineers specializing in dryer equipment.

Things moved along well until Christmas Eve, when the temperature in the house again dropped below 60F. Armed with the prior knowledge gleaned from co-workers, I took apart the entire furnace condensate system and found out that the drain line was filling up with water, causing all sorts of issues in the furnace's safety systems. While a condensate pump was clearly in order, a bucket sufficed for the holidays.

Last night, I picked up a condensate pump and PVC piping in order to put a more permanent fix in place. After figuring out how the PVC pipe would be layed out, I broke out a blow dryer to start work (blow dryer plus PVC pipe = no fittings needed). I plugged the blow dryer into the outlet on the furnace, previously used for an April Aire system. And got nothing. Hmmm, check the other outlet. Equal nothingness.

This is where the former home-owner comes into the picture. It seems somebody had a penchant for wiring electrical components in what can only be termed a half-assed manner (sorry Mom, it is what it is). My 30-minute task of bending some pipe and plugging in a pump turned into a several hour affair of rewiring the electrical going into my furnace. Thanks former home-owner.

After getting everything into a stable condition and hooking the condensate pump discharge up through a temporary hose, I got to bed VERY late (okay, 11:30 p.m., which is like early morning for me). Between that and Monster Girl screaming for food, I was wiped when I headed out for training in the morning.

Which led to my work clothes staying on the garage door knob instead of going to my car. Which led to my getting to the YMCA for a swim and heading right back home.

I decided to spin on the trainer instead of going back for the swim. It appears I'll be swimming in the Water Aerobics Wave Pool, tomorrow. Ahhh, training.

Monday, January 01, 2007

The Year of the Ironman

The Chinese zodiac uses a 12-year cycle representing a cyclical concept of time. With each year represented by an animal, the Chinese zodiac can be much more useful than the moon signs utilitzed in much of the world. In addition to offering broadly general personality traits, knowledge of an animal signs allows for fairly accurate guesses at an individuals age without asking the taboo question, "How old are you?"

Born in 1968, I am a monkey. If you ask my mother, she will tell you, I'm a monkey regardless of what year I was born. Of course, I think that has less to do with personality traits assigned by a zodiac chart and more to do with an odd penchant for climbing anything with handholds. Then again, monkeys are far less prone to falling (and the associated broken limbs) than I.

2007 is the year of the boar or pig. People born in the year of the pig are extremely dedicated. They put all their strength into any effort the undertake. Retreat is rarely an option. And when you befriend a boar, you have a friend for life.

While I have little control over the Chinese zodiac, I am declaring 2007 to be The Year of the Ironman. Ironmen, and those pursuing that goal, have many of the traits exhibited by boars. They are extremely dedicated, see obstacles as something to be overcome, and are fast friends once you've managed to divert some of their attention away from training.

In addition, the Ironman is extremely disciplined and organized. Even the most disorganized Ironman is capable of juggling training, family, work, and other commitments for many months at a time. The Ironman is often up long before the sun rises and generally completes more training before sunup than many complete in an entire day (or week).

And for me, 2007 is the year I will become an Ironman. It is fitting that this be accomplished in the year of the pig. So, join me in making 2007 the Year of the Ironman. Our impact on Chinese culture may be minimal, but we can certainly share the fire of our pursuit with others.